On this week's episode of "What's Eric Eating," chef-owner Ziggy Gruber joins CultureMap food editor Eric Sandler to discuss Kenny & Ziggy's, his Galleria-area restaurant and deli. Gruber grew up working at his grandfather's deli in New York, but he's also a classically trained chef who worked at a three-star Michelin restaurant in London alongside luminaries Marco Pierre White and Gordon Ramsay.
The conversation touches on a number of topics, including the ways in which the chef's French training shapes his approach to creating recipes for the restaurant, the underrated gems on Kenny & Ziggy's extensive menu, and how Gruber got to Houston. Every August, Kenny & Ziggy's runs a special deli month with three courses for $38; it provides diners with the opportunity to sample some of the Eastern European classics hidden in the menu and raises money for the Holocaust Museum - Houston.
Gruber tells Sandler that Kenny & Ziggy's has fared relatively well during the pandemic, a status he attributes to the restaurant's lack of debt, but notes the reports he hears from operators around the country aren't as encouraging. Colleagues in both New York and Los Angeles report they're struggling to make ends meet.
"These are operations that have been in business for 75 to 80 years. They're very good operators. This isn't about how good an operator is or not," Gruber says. "You've seen very experienced people close up operations, because they have no choice. It's a business decision."
Prior to the interview, co-host Matt Harris joins Sandler to discuss the news of the week. They're topics include the recent closures of establishments such as Night Heron and Blackbird Izakaya, the changes happening at Clark Cooper Concepts, and recently-launched delivery app Orange Crate.
In the restaurants of the week segment, Harris and Sandler recount a recent meal at 1751 Sea & Bar, where chef J.D. Woodward has updated the menu with dishes such as duck confit gyoza and whole, deboned sea bass.